To Quit or Not To Quit: The Top 5 Lessons I Learned During My First Year as a Health & Wellness Coach

Yesterday was not a good day.  Without trying to sound overly dramatic, I was a basket case. I woke up in a funk but my mood really started to unravel while I listened to one of my favorite podcasts.  The host was recapping the fantastic year she’d had, both personally and professionally.  As a new entrepreneur, it was inspiring to hear that her hard work and dedication had payed off so dramatically.  But less than five minutes later I found myself sitting in my car crying about all the things I hadn’t accomplished this year. Forget all the good things I had done!  In an instant, I had completely lost my anchor in reality and was quickly slipping down the rabbit hole of despair and self-doubt.

You see a year ago I had a solid plan in place for 2016.  I was half-way through my Health Coach Training Program.  I had a full-time job that I didn’t love but it allowed me to pay the bills and plan how I was going to launch my own business after graduation.  I wrote up a business plan and a checklist of all the things I wanted to accomplish, both personally and professionally.  I gave myself lots of time to accomplish things.  I also felt healthy and strong for the first time in ages so while there were still many unknowns in my life, with my  plan in hand, I felt like the world was full of possibilities.

To say that things didn’t go as planned would be an understatement!  I lost my full-time job in February.  Without the security of a steady paycheck, I signed up for a couple of business classes, pushed my own timeline up and dove head first into be being a Health Coach.  My experience launching an online business feels a lot like riding bumper cars.  I’d try something, gain momentum, crash into a wall, backup and start again.  Some days I would have major breakthroughs and make some serious headway before being side-swiped by something else.  When things stopped moving, and I found myself just sitting there wondering what to do next, I would hand the Universe another ticket and start again.

Then yesterday the ride came to a screeching halt.  And for the first time in a year, I wanted to quit.  I’d had enough.  I was exhausted.  I wanted a break from the doubt and uncertainty.  I wanted to feel like I was appreciated and know that the work that I was doing was actually meaningful.  But most of all, I just wanted someone else to tell me what to do because I didn’t trust myself to take the next step.

How Did I Get Here? 

I did not sign up to study nutrition with the intention of becoming a Health Coach.  I signed up to fix myself.  I have spent most of my life fighting my own body.  I’ve had everything from whooping cough to Scarlet Fever. For many years if someone so much as sneezed in my direction, there was a 95% chance I would catch a cold or the flu.  I spent 6 months in bed my freshman year of high school thanks to mononucleosis and I have suffered through daily migraines for most of of my adult life.  I did my first juice cleanse at 14 when, after 6 months of a daily low-grade fevers, I was told the fever needed to break or I would have to have my spleen removed. Turns out I was pretty attached to my spleen and thankfully my experiment worked.  It was the first time I used food to heal my body and it set my on the path that I am still on today.

I understand the mind-body-food connection better than I would care to admit because I have lived it first hand for years.  For a long time I made the mistake of defining my health in relation to my weight.  Meaning it didn’t matter how I felt or if I was getting headaches, if I was thinner I was “healthy”.  In reality, when I was “dieting” I was at my weakest.  I would eat food simply to lose weight and therefore deprived myself of the nutrients it needed the most.  I was also not looking at my health beyond what was on my plate, so I let a lot of outside influences control how I was feeling.

I’ve tried almost every diet out there, from being vegan to Ayurveda to food combining.  I am extremely lucky because at this stage in my life I finally feel have a handle on things.  I know what works and doesn’t work because I’ve learned to listen to my body.  I also recognize that my health is a moving target and something that I will need to work on every day for the rest of my life.  I’ve only had one massive migraine in the past six months, my chances of catching a cold when someone sneezes now are around 5% and I can’t remember the last time I got sick.  I’d say that is real progress.

To Quit or Not to Quit? That is the Question.

When I went to bed last night I was done.  But then I woke up this morning to the sun was shining through my window and I thought “what the %*&#, Betsy?”  Just like that quitting was no longer an option.  To quit would be to choose the path of least resistance and I know in my heart I would regret that decision for a long time.  I love helping people.  While I did not cross off everything on my 2016 list, in many ways I have accomplished more than I thought possible.

As I look ahead to 2017, I though I would share the Top 5 Lessons I have learned over the last year as a Health Coach.  Whether your own goals include losing weight, getting a new job, living a healthier lifestyle, or even starting your own business, I hope these will inspire you as you look ahead:

  1. Being “Healthy” is More than Just the Food You Eat:  I would say that 90% of the work I do with clients has nothing to do with the food.   You can eat all the kale in the world, but if you are in a job that is dragging you down or in a relationship that leaves you feeling alone, then chances are the kale is not going to help.  Take a step back and look at your health as a whole.  Sleep, exercise and self-care are my three favorite tools to help recharge me when I am feeling out of whack.  Remember to feed your mind and soul just like you feed your body.
  2. Change Takes Time: And it’s not always easy.  When setting goals we have a tendency to not be realistic.  We say things like “I want to lose 10lbs in 2 weeks” or “I need to be in a new job in one month”.  When we don’t meet those goals in our specified time we are more likely to give up because we haven’t seen the results. Stay committed, keep doing the work and the results will come.
  3. Everyone’s Journey is Different:  It’s hard not to compare yourself to others when we are surrounded by “perfection” on TV and social media.  Do not let other people dictate your story.  Keep in mind that what works for someone else may be a total disaster for you.  Don’t be afraid to adjust your approach or start again if something isn’t working.
  4. Cut Yourself Some Slack:  When things go sideways, how do you react?  Do you get mad and start beating yourself up?  Do you withdraw and expect things to change on their own?  It’s very easy to get upset when things don’t go your way (as illustrated in my story above haha).  But sometimes the best thing that you can do is give yourself a pass.  So what if you ate too much at dinner the night before or have a massive hangover the next day?  Today is a new day and you have a new opportunity make new choices.  Remember that this moment, right here, right now, is the foundation for your future.  Use it to build something great.
  5. Start Somewhere: This is the #1 tip I give to my clients (so much so I designed a mug with the saying on it).  It doesn’t matter how small the action, the most powerful step you can take is the first one.  I often get clients that tell me they can’t do something now because they need to something else first.  Usually they say they need to save money or lose weight before they can make a big change.  Whether it’s making your coffee at home every morning or skipping dinner out one night out a week there is always something you can do today to help get you closer to your goals tomorrow.  Just start somewhere!

 
There is no magic ball that can tell you what the future holds. Getting up and showing up every day is the only true given. While this year did not go as I planned in many ways it was better than I could have dreamed. I invested in myself and I saw the results. I know that I have created a solid foundation for my future and plan to build on that. I wish you nothing but the best in 2017. Dream big and if you need help, I am simply an email away!

 

 

Rustic Egg Tarts

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Here in New York City we take our weekend brunching very seriously.  Served up between 10am and 3pm, most restaurants lure guests in with a special menu that turns traditional breakfast dishes into mini works of culinary art. Coupled with a few cocktails and an amazing group of friends, brunch can be the highlight of even the craziest weekends.

But what if you want to recreate that same experience at home?  This recipe for Rustic Egg Tarts is easy to make and will wow your friends and family.  So call up some friends, brew up a large pot of coffee and shake up some Bloody Mary’s (or Caesars) – it’s time to brunch!

Step 4The backbone of this recipe is the puff pastry shell. While I normally prefer to make things from scratch, this is one item that I always pick up at the grocery store.  The sheets are easy to use and the results are consistent. Look for a package in the freezer section and make sure that you do not confuse with phyllo dough- they are two very different items.

Most boxes are sold with two pastry sheets inside.  For the best results, store in your own freezer until you are ready to use.  Allow one sheet thaw at room temperature for 40 minutes before handling and wrap the other sheet in foil then return to the freezer.

The trick to puff pastry is that you want to keep it cold.  If the dough feels sticky or warm, place it back in the freezer for 5 minutes before handling.  If you find cracks or holes in the dough when opening or rolling out, use a little bit of water to soften and push back together.

shellsPuff pastry can expand to almost 8 times its original thickness while cooking.  Pricking the pastry shells helps to let the air escape so that it doesn’t expand as much.  To start, you will bake the shells in a 375°F oven for 15 minutes until a light golden brown color.

While your pastry is in the oven, grab a medium-sized skillet and start cooking the bacon.  You will need one slice of bacon for each tart.  When cooked, remove from pan and lay on a sheet of paper towel to help absorbs any extra grease.  Cut each slice into 4 or 5 smaller pieces and set aside.

Step 1

Once you remove the shells from the oven you need to create a well for your ingredients.  Because the centers of the shells will have puffed up, use a fork to gently flatten the centers.  I find it’s best to start just inside the folded over rim and work toward the center.  To give the edges an extra golden finish, add a light wash of melted butter to the entire shell before adding the remaining ingredients.

Steps 2

Next, place the chunks of bacon around inner edge of the tart shell.   Carefully crack one egg in the center and add sliced cherry tomatoes around the egg.   Top with a couple of shakes of salt and pepper to taste.  You can also add a pinch of cheese to each tart before cooking.  I suggest using asiago or parmesan for an extra kick of flavor.

Steps 3

Place baking sheet back in the oven and cook for and additional 20-25 minutes, until the pastry edges are golden brown and outside of the eggs are white.  The tops of the eggs will look glassy but the yolks will be set. These Rustic Egg Tarts are filling, so serve with a few slices of fruit or a small salad.

Rustic Egg Tarts

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Yield: 4 sevings

Rustic Egg Tarts

Ingredients

  • 1 Puff Pastry sheet, defrosted (I recommend Pepperidge Farm)
  • 1 Tablespoon melted butter
  • 4 slices of thick cut bacon
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with flour.
  3. Unfold the pastry sheet and lie flat. If there are any cracks, use a little bit of water to fill holes and smooth out the surface. Using a sharp knife, cut pastry sheet into 4 equal squares.
  4. Carefully fold in the outer edges of each square creating a 1/2" rim. Using a fork, gently prick the center section of each tart. Bake for 15 minutes until tops are a light golden brown.
  5. While tart shells are in the oven, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Set aside to cool then cut each slice into 4-5 pieces.
  6. Remove shells from the oven. The centers will puff up during cooking so use a fork to push down. Start at the fold over edge and work toward the center. This will create a well for your filling.
  7. Using a pastry brush, spread a thin layer of melted butter over the tart shells. Place the bacon pieces around the inner edge of the shell.
  8. Carefully crack one egg into the center of each tart. Evenly divide the cherry tomato slices and place around eggs.
  9. Top with salt, pepper and cheese (optional) to taste.
  10. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes until eggs are set.
  11. Enjoy!

Notes

Keep the puff pastry in the freezer until ready to use. To defrost, let the sheet sit at room temperature for 40 minutes until soft (this is why I listed the prep time as 40 minutes). If the pastry sheet is sticky or warm when handling, return to freezer for 5 minutes. For best results you want to keep the pastry cold. Most puff pastry sheets packages are packs of 2. Wrap second sheet in foil or plastic wrap and return to freezer until you are ready to use.

http://bohorustic.com/rustic-egg-tarts/

Let me know what you think!  Post a comment below or share a photo on Instagram and use the hashtag #bohorusticrecipe.

Cheers,

Betsy

How to Make Perfect Bacon Every Time

bacon cooked

There are certain sights and sounds that are associated with cooking bacon.  The sizzle and pop of the fat while frying.  The smokey aroma that fills the kitchen and immediately makes your mouth water or your stomach start to grumble.  Watching the meat slowly brown while carefully timing when to flip to keep the edges from burning.  The sweet relief of cold water as you try to calm the searing pain of the grease that just hopped out of the pan and beelined straight for your bare hand (always my favorite!).  It is an artful balance of timing and luck to get that perfect slice of crisp bacon!

But what if you could cook your bacon in a way that would guarantee crispy strips without the fear of fat flying or edges burning?  It may sound crazy, but by oven roasting your bacon you can eliminate all the mess and worry.  You definitely won’t need to keep band-aids and burn cream on hand.  There is no flipping, your hands are free to make other things and best of all, clean up is a cinch!

bacon 1

Start by preheating the oven to 400°F.  Double line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. The goal here is to catch all the bacon fat in the foil so there is no washing up at the end. Make sure there are no holes in the foil and all areas are covered.

Next, lay bacon in a single layer on the baking sheet. Slices should not overlap or they will stick together when cooking.  Tuck in any ends that may be over the edge of the tray (see above).  Place tray in oven and and bake until strips are crispy and brown, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

bacon 2Around the 10 minute mark you may notice that thicker cuts of bacon might be submerged in their own grease.  Carefully remove the tray from the oven and tilt one end into a glass container or aluminum can, letting the fat pour off. Return the tray to the oven for final cooking.

The thickness of the meat and personal preference will dictate how long you leave in the oven. If you are cooking medium-sliced bacon, total cook time is about 18 minutes for the perfect crispy finish. Just keep an eye on it while cooking and remove when desired crispiness is reached.  Using tongs, transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate and let cool slightly.

Serve with eggs for breakfast, in a BLT sandwich for lunch or chop and toss into a delicious fresh salad for dinner (shown).

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 Five Fun Facts About Bacon:

  1. Bacon originated in China around 1500 B.C. when farmers began to salt and cure pork bellies to eat.  Ancient Greeks and Romans used a similar technique to cure their meats.
  2. The word Bacon is derived from the Middle English word “bacoun”, which referred to all types of pork.  In the 17th Century, it was shortened to “bacon”  and used to only describe cured pork.
  3. While all bacon is salted and cured, different countries prefer different cuts of the pig.  America uses pork bellies, while Canada uses pork loin and Great Britain favors pork shoulder.  
  4. Ever wonder about the difference in bacon slices?  According to my butcher, thin sliced bacon is 1/32″ thick and yields 28-32 pieces per pound.  Medium sliced bacon is 1/16″ thick and yields 16-20 pieces per pound.  Thick cut bacon is 1/8″ thick and yields 10-14 slices per pound.
  5. The Bacon Martini was invented in 1998 by two bartenders independently of each other.  P. Moss, of the Double Down Saloon in Las Vegas, concocted a drink using hickory-smoked bacon and vodka, while Soon Yang, of Santa Monica, California, created his drink using juniper-cured bacon and vodka.  Over the years, the Bacon Martini, also know as the Bacontini or Pig on the Rocks, has grown in popularity.  It has lead to numerous brands of bacon-infused vodka and bourbon being introduced all over the world. 

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*Notes:

  • Never put hot bacon fat down your sink drain or into a plastic container!  Once cooled, throw away.
  • Don’t worry about the grease splatter in the oven.  My guess is the fat does not splatter because you are not moving the slices around or flipping them.  We did not find any splatter in the oven when we took them out!

 

Oven-Roasted Bacon

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 slices of bacon
  • Equipment
  • Baking sheet
  • Aluminum foil
  • Tongs
  • Paper towel
  • Plate for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Line baking sheet with 2 layers of aluminum foil. Check that there are no holes for bacon grease to slip through.
  3. Place a single layer of bacon on the pan, making sure that the slices do not overlap. Tuck in any ends that are over the edge.
  4. Cook until brown and crispy, approximately 15-20 minutes.
  5. Start checking around 10 minutes in. If the slices are submerged in grease, carefully remove tray and pour out some of the fat. Return to oven and continue cooking until done.
  6. When tray is removed from the oven, use tongs to immediately transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate.

Notes

Once baking sheet has cooled, fold up aluminum foil and throw away. If all goes well, there will be no additional clean up needed!

http://bohorustic.com/oven-roasted-bacon/

What are your thoughts on baking bacon? Comment below and let me know!

Cheers,

Betsy

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with a Tangy Honey Glaze

UBrussels Sprouts TitleLove ’em or hate ’em, Brussels sprouts are one vegetable that people have very strong opinions about.  If you haven’t tried them in a while, I suggest you go out and buy a bag right now.  Not only are they extremely nutritious but thankfully taste buds can change.  If you didn’t like them when you were five, there is a very good chance you will like them now.

So fire up the oven and give this recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts with a Tangy Honey Glaze a try.  Full of rich flavors that will keep you coming back for more, these Brussels sprouts are roasted to perfection with just the right amount of crispiness.  Perfect as a side dish or as an afternoon snack, it will be hard to stop with just one serving!

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Good Things Come In Small Packages.  These small, leafy-green buds are packed full of vitamins and minerals that offer a multitude of benefits if eaten on a regular basis.  Vitamins A and C will help keep your skin clear and work to fight off oxidative stress.  Vitamin K is rich in anti-inflammatory properties while a high fiber content is linked to helping reduce cholesterol. Brussels sprouts even produce a chemical called sulforphane which many studies have shown have cancer fighting properties.

Brussels Sprouts close up

The added benefit of the honey, which is known for its own anti-bacterial properties, makes this not only a great tasting recipe, but healthy as well.  Mixed with sherry vinegar to create a glaze that is both tangy and sweet, it is the perfect compliment to the rich, earthy flavors of your Brussels sprouts.

Brussel Sprouts 5Don’t Overcook.  It is very important that you do not overcook Brussels sprouts.  Not only will it diminish the nutritional benefits of the vegetable, but it will create a strong and unpleasant sulfur smell (which is typically associated with Brussels sprouts).  Soggy Brussels sprouts will taste pungent and bitter.  Once a fork can be inserted into the center and it is soft, these little guys are ready to eat.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with a Tangy Honey Glaze

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 20 hours

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 6 serving

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts, rinsed and cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F
  2. Spread the Brussels sprouts in a single layer along the bottom of a large baking dish. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil, salt and pepper and use your hands to toss together. Make sure the sprouts are all covered with oil. Redistribute so they are back in a single layer.
  3. Cover with foil and cook in oven for 15 minutes. Stir once to ensure that sprouts brown evenly. Remove from oven and carefully discard foil.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining oil, honey and sherry vinegar. Pour over the Brussels sprouts and stir to coat.
  5. Return baking dish to oven, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes. Brussels sprouts should have a lightly caramelized finish and be soft when a fork is inserted before serving.
http://bohorustic.com/roasted-brussels-sprouts-tangy-honey-glaze/

Comment below and let me know what you think!

Cheers,

Betsy

Countdown to Thanksgiving {The Final Week}

Multicolored autumn season vegetables assortmentWhether you are a first-time host or a seasoned hostess, the final days leading up to Thanksgiving can be stressful.  In Part 3 of our Countdown to Thanksgiving Series, we tackle all the last minute details to help you throw the dinner of the year.

weekend

  • Start Shopping:   The supermarket is going to be busy!  Make your trip easier by organizing your shopping list into categories: dairy, meats, vegetables, bakery, etc.  This will make navigating the grocery store easier and keep you from wandering aimlessly through the aisles.  Also, don’t forget to bring a pen to cross things off your list.
  • Defrost the Turkey:  If you purchased a frozen turkey, transfer it to the refrigerator so it has time to properly defrost. This is especially important if you plan to brine the bird.   
  • Copy Your Recipes:  Cooking can get messy.  The last thing you want to do is ruin a recipe card that was passed down from your great-grandmother or a page in your favorite cookbook.  Take the time to photocopy or print out all your recipes to protect the originals.  
  • Create Your Cooking Schedule:  Now that you have copies of all your recipes, organize them in the order you plan prepare the dishes.  Make notes on prep and cooking times and make sure that you will have enough room in the oven and on the stove.  This will keep you on track leading up to and during the big day.

Monday

  • It’s Go Time:  Start to tackle small and tedious tasks like chopping up vegetables, making breadcrumbs and mixing up any dry ingredients you will need. Pre-measure your ingredients before storing in air-tight containers or bags.  Then clearly label each bag with the quantity and recipe name so they are ready for cooking.
  • Make the Brine:  Combine the ingredients at least 24 hours before you plan to add the turkey.  When working with a wet brine, you want all the ingredients to be chilled completely and have time to combine for the best flavor.
  • Cook What You Can:  Cranberry sauce, pie crusts, gravy and casseroles are all perfect items to tackle now.  Wrap carefully and clearly label before placing in the refrigerator.  If you plan to reheat or cook a prepared casserole later, tape a card with cooking time and oven temperature needed for easy reference.
  • Set the Table:  Many people like to set the table the night before Thanksgiving.  I prefer to do this a couple of days earlier to give myself enough time to make any necessary changes as the big day gets closer.  If you are planning to do any place cards or special decorations, get these done now.

Wednesday

  •  Brine the Bird:  The centerpiece of your meal, the turkey should now be completely defrosted and ready to go.  Don’t forget to take the giblets out before submerging in the brine.
  • Start Baking:  Finish any pies, cakes or desserts now.  If you are planning to make homemade bread or biscuits, get dough setting so they are ready first thing Thanksgiving morning.
  • Final Shop: Pick up any last minute items that are missing from your list.  Don’t forget to pick up fresh flowers if you plan to add them to a centerpiece.
  • Chill the Drinks: Space in the refrigerator may be tight, so take some time getting everything in.  If you are lucky enough to live somewhere cold, you can try placing drinks on a back porch or in the garage to cool.  Also, pick up extra ice.
  • Final Clean: Do any last minute straightening, dusting and vacuuming.  to wake up to a clean house on Thanksgiving morning.

thanksgivingThanksgiving Day is different for everyone.  It will be as fun or as stressful as you make it out to be.  Just remember these few last minute tips and enjoy the big day:

  • You’ve Got This:  All the small details are out of the way and now it is time to cook and spend time with your family.  Always remember that mistakes can happen: a sauce may burn, an ingredient may be forgotten or a plate might get dropped.  Don’t let the little things become big deals.  You may not be laughing now, but small mistakes can turn into the best stories over time.
  • Keep an Eye on the Clock:  Work backwards from when you plan to eat and make sure that you have enough time to cook the turkey and let it rest before serving.  Allow your turkey to sit for 30-40 minutes before serving to help redistribute the juices.
  • Ask for Help: If you need an extra set of hands to carry out hors d’oeuvres or a dishwasher, speak up!  Most people want to help but maybe don’t know how to ask.  Get people involved where you can and enjoy the company.
  • Don’t Forget to Shower:  Make sure you have a little bit of time to yourself to prepare for your guests.  You will most likely start cooking in your pajamas, but you do not want to be greeting guests in your bathrobe.  If possible, give yourself an extra half hour to sit back and enjoy what you have accomplished so far.  Your family and friends will be there soon enough and they it’s time to party.

 

Countdown to Thanksgiving {Part Two}

Multicolored autumn season vegetables assortmentWe are just 10 days away from the biggest feast of the year-Thanksgiving!  By now you should have a menu in place, your budget squared away and your basic prepping and cleaning are under way.  In Part Two of our Countdown to Thanksgiving Series, we tackle three more tasks to help you prepare for the big day.

delegateWhen preparing a large meal, you have to be ready for anything.  Not only are you the host, but an entertainer, cook and sometime ring-master.  It can be a lot of work, so knowing when and where to ask for help is essential.

  • Speak Up: Does your Aunt Jo make amazing apple pies?  Does your Dad want to bring his world-famous mashed potatoes?  Check-in with your guests now and see if anyone wants to bring one of their specialty dishes to dinner.  Add this to your menu.
  • Keep in Mind Your Oven Schedule:  If a guest brings something, ask them to prepare it completely ahead of time.  Regardless of how big your kitchen is, you do not want to have to stop what you are doing so someone else can cook.   Crock-Pots are perfect for keeping dishes warm allowing you to keep your kitchen free for your own preparation.

Stock the bar 2

Alcohol is one area that can easily break the bank if you are not paying attention.   A general rule of thumb when buying for large party is to assume guests will drink 1-2 drinks in the first hour, then one drink for each additional hour.

  • Don’t Fear the Box:  Check out companies like Bandit and Black Box who are reinventing the wine market with their award-winning boxed wines. The eco-friendly packaging allows them to be sold at a significantly lower cost that their bottled counterparts and are great options to serve if entertaining a large group.
  • Create A Featured Drink: Serving a signature drink as guests arrive is an easy way to create a festive atmosphere.   Pinterest is the perfect place to go for recipes and serving ideas.  Use a Crock-Pot to prepare Mulled Wine (for adults) or a Spicy Apple Cider (for kids).
  • Mix It Up:  Take the stress out of last minute shopping by picking up club soda, tonic, sodas and Bloody Mary mix now.  Many liquor stores will also offer non-perishable items like gourmet salts (to ring glasses) and bottled items like cherries or olives.

decorate 2It’s still a bit early to set the table, but pull together your components now to ensure that you have all your bases covered.

  • Plate It Up: Count your place settings, wine glasses and silverware for the main event.  If necessary, make a list and pick up any missing or replacement pieces.  Also, don’t forget about dessert!  You should have enough plates and utensils to cover all your courses.
  • Ready to Serve:  Using your menu as a guide, pull out your serving dishes and match them with your recipes.  Double check that you have enough serving utensils as well.  If using a sideboard or table for serving, it is helpful to lay out the dishes and platters to make sure everything will fit during dinner.
  • Keep It Simple:  You are putting a lot of effort into preparing the perfect meal, so don’t overshadow the food with scented candles or too many distractions on the table.  Try to keep centerpieces small- you want your guests to feel connected and free to talk across the table.

Don’t forget to check out our latest post,  Countdown to Thanksgiving {The Final Week}, where we breakdown the final preparations for your big meal.

Countdown to Thanksgiving {Part One}

Multicolored autumn season vegetables assortment

We are only two weeks away from my favorite holiday of the year -Thanksgiving!  Not only is it the official start to the holiday season, but it is a day that allows us give thanks, celebrate with great food and spend time with our loved ones. Whether you are a seasoned host or a first-time hostess, there is no reason for the day to be stressful.  Here are a few of my essential tips that you can do right now to help make your Thanksgiving day a little bit easier (and don’t forget to check back Sunday for more helpful tips!)

plan ahead 2Time has a funny way of getting away from you during the holiday season.  A little planning and thoughtful preparation can go a long way.

  • Don’t Wing It: Make a menu and stick with it.  If you have spent months scouring Pinterest and FoodGawker for the latest and greatest recipes, do a test run.  Experimenting with new recipes is fun, but sometimes things just don’t go as planned. You want to make sure that there are no surprises when you sit down to eat.
  • Allergy Alerts:  Find out if any of your guests have allergies or dietary restrictions.  This doesn’t mean you have to change your whole menu so they can eat every dish, but being mindful of your guests needs and having a few options available will leave a lasting impression.
  • Create a Budget: When planning a large meal, things have a tendency to add up pretty quickly. With Christmas right around the corner, you do not want to break the bank before the Black Friday sales have even started. Breakdown what you plan to spend on food, drinks, supplies and decorations and make adjustments accordingly. Also, make sure to earmark a little bit extra for last minute surprises (trust me, they is always something!

deep clean 2No one really likes to clean but it has to be done (sigh). Ideally, you want to have your house ready to go so that all you need to do is a quick vacuum and dust the morning that your guests arrive.

  • Start with the Refrigerator:  The refrigerator is the backbone of any kitchen and deserves a little extra TLC this holiday season.  Begin by throwing away any old or expired food and make a note of any essentials that need to be replaced.  Wipe down the shelves, drawers and doors with a mild detergent and add a fresh box of baking soda to help absorb any odors.
  • Tackle the Small Stuff:   Pay attention to the details in your home that are not part of your normal cleaning routine.  Dust corners for cobwebs, wipe down base boards, shake out rugs and don’t forget to clean the oven.  To make these tasks seem less daunting, picking one room a day and give it a thorough cleaning.
  • Wash Up:  If you have guests staying over, make sure that all your towels and sheets are washed and ready to go.  Any table linens should also be washed and pressed before setting the table.

bulk 2Once you have your menu in place, it is time to start shopping.  Even “perishable” items, such as potatoes, onions, cranberries, squash and apples can be bought up to 2 weeks in advance if stored correctly.

  • Gobble, Gobble: Never buy your turkey the day before Thanksgiving!  Supermarkets are great at offering deals for early-bird shoppers. For example, our local supermarket offered a deep discount per pound for turkeys if we spent a certain amount on groceries.  Thanks to their special we ended up saving $14! Keep your turkey in the freezer until you are ready to thaw.
  • Party Essentials:  If you are planning to serve any sort of afternoon snack or h’orderves, save the fancy dishes for dinner and pick up some cute paper plates, plastic utensils and paper napkins.  This will help keep your dishwasher free for the main event.  It is also the perfect time to stock up on chips, dips, or any frozen h’orderves that are on sale now to save you from having to worry about them at the last minute.
  • Clean-Up Crew: A big dinner + plus extra people in your home = a big mess.  Stay ahead of the game by making sure you are fully stocked with essentials like extra trash bags, paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, and soap.  Extra aluminum foil and cling wrap are also great to have on hand (especially for making little care packages with leftovers).

What sorts of things do you do to help get ready for a big dinner? Comment below and let me know.

For additional steps, check out Part Two and Part Three of our Countdown to Thanksgiving Series.

Saffron Roasted Potatoes

saffron titleYou can never go wrong serving roasted potatoes.  They are super easy to make and pair perfectly with everything from roasted turkey to cheeseburgers.  But how do you make ordinary roasted potatoes taste extraordinary?  Add a touch of saffron and enjoy!  Crispy on the outside and with the sweet and earthy flavors of the saffron spice baked in, these Saffron Roasted Potatoes will turn your basic side dish into one of the main attractions at your next meal.

What is Saffron?  Known as the “crown jewel” of spices, Saffron is the most expensive spice currently on the the market. Primarily imported from Spain, Iran or India it is known for it’s crimson color, distinct flavor, and hefty price tag. Made from the thread-like stigmas of the saffron crocus flower (or Crocus Sativus), each bloom produces three stigmas that are then extracted by hand to preserve their color and flavor.  Because of this, it can take anywhere from 50,000-75,000 blooms to produce a single pound of the spice (and explains why it is so expensive)!

Saffron

While the exact origins of saffron are unclear, the spice has been used for centuries and is highly regarded for it’s medicinal uses .  Ancient Egyptians used it to help relieve gastrointestinal issues while Romans believed that saffron was useful to treat wounds as well as respiratory issues such as colic and coughs.  Today, doctors are researching the its effect on treating mild depression, asthma and even if it helps to fight cancer.

Buying and preparing Saffron:  First off, don’t let the cost scare you. A little bit goes a long way so there is no need to buy a big jar.  Saffron comes in 2 forms- threads and powder.  When buying the threads, make sure that they are all crimson red in color.  Pure saffron should have slight variations in red color, but should be absent of any yellow or orange for the most flavor.  Sometimes the yellow stamen of the plant are added into the mix but these have no flavor or nutritional value (it’s basically filler).  Saffron threads can release flavor for up to 24 hours, so make sure to soak them in warm water for 15-20 minutes before using to help release the flavors (the longer you leave soaking, the stronger the flavor).  When using saffron powder, there is no need to soak and they spice flavors are already activated when ground.

framesSaffron vs. Safflower:  Now when you head to your local supermarket you may be surprised to find something labeled “Saffron (Safflower)” in the spice aisle.  Don’t be fooled- this is not saffron!  Safflower, or Carthamus Tinctorius,  is another blooming flower that is commonly called American Saffron, Mexican Saffron, or in some cases the “bastard saffron”.  It has similar coloring and will look like regular saffron to the untrained eye, but the flavors are not as intense.  I made the mistake of buying this once and have used this to make roasted potatoes before and with great results (I have included the Safflower alternative to recipe below).

saffron tray

Enjoy!

Saffron Roasted Potatoes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs baby potatoes
  • 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 2 Tbsp warm water
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a small container, let saffron threads soak in warm water for 20 minutes to open up flavors.
  3. Wash and quarter potatoes. In a rectangular baking dish, spread out potatoes so they are in a single layer.
  4. Once the saffron is ready, drizzle potatoes with oil and the soaked saffron (including water). Toss so that potatoes are covered evenly with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and stir. Return to oven uncovered and cook another 20-25 minutes until potatoes are fork-tender and outside edges are crispy.

Notes

If using Safflower, simples sprinkle 2 tsp of the spice on the potatoes after dizzying with oil and toss with salt and pepper. Follow remaining steps as is. There is no need to soak before using.

http://bohorustic.com/saffron-potatoes/

Cinnamon Apple Pumpkin Muffins

Cinnamon Apple Pumpkin Title

As the end of October rapidly approaches, it seems that the internet is bursting with all things pumpkin.  Starting with the return of the Pumpkin Latte in late September, fever pitch is reached just before Halloween. By then, every grocery store and local market has a massive pumpkin display when you walk in the door and your Pinterest board is filled with new and exciting ways to add pumpkin to everything from pies to pasta.

But what if you are not a fan of pumpkins?   Sure they look cute carved up and sitting on porch for Halloween but for some, the thought of eating the bright orange pulp can seem a little bit scary.  Don’t let it be!  This recipe for Cinnamon Apple Pumpkin Muffins is the perfect treat if you are new to pumpkins.  Packed to the rim with chunks of cinnamon apples, the pumpkin puree simply adds another dimension to the muffins creating a rich medley of flavors that taste like fall.

DSC_0039

The secret to these muffins is sauteing the apples before you bake.  The butter and cinnamon melt into the apples chucks creating the perfect balance between sweet and tart. These muffins are also incredibly moist.  They taste great warmed up with your morning cup of coffee or on-the-go as an afternoon snack.

Recipe notes:  This recipe calls for a Flax Egg.  To make the flax egg, simply whisk together 1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal with 2 1/2 tablespoons of water.  Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes and it will take on the consistency or a real egg.  Flax eggs are typically used as a replacement in vegan recipes.  This recipe is not vegan (it contains butter and honey) but I wanted to try it out the flax egg while baking and was extremely happy with the results.  You can substitute a real egg though if you please.

Due to varying moisture levels of the apples and the pumpkin puree you may need to adjust a bit on the fly. The batter should be moist but not runny.  if it is too runny, add more oats.  If you find the batter is too dry, add more almond milk.

DSC_0049

Quick Tips of Storing and Freezing:

  • Keep your Cinnamon Apple Pumpkin Muffins fresh by storing them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  If you have extra muffins that you do not plan to eat within 3-4 days after baking, you can easily freeze them.
  • To freeze: make sure muffins are completely cooled before wrapping.  I recommend wrapping each muffin in freezer wrap then placing in a large freezer bag (this way you can take out one or two to defrost at a time instead of the whole bunch).
  • Label bag with the name of the recipe and the date.  These will last for up to two months in the freezer.
  • To defrost: let muffins sit at room temperature until thawed or place on a microwave-safe plate and warm on HIGH setting for about 30 seconds.

Cinnamon Apple Pumpkin Muffins

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 12 small muffins/8 large muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tart apples (I recommend Granny Smith or Braeburn)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree (I recommend Libby's)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • Plus an extra handful of old-fashioned rolled oats (for topping)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon sugar (for topping)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F and line a muffin tray with paper liners.
  2. Create a flax egg by gently whisking flaxseed meal and water in a large bowl and set aside to thicken.
  3. Wash, peel, core and dice the granny smith apples. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add diced apples and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of cinnamon. Saute until soft. Remove from heat.
  4. Add almond milk, pumpkin puree, brown sugar, oil, honey and vanilla extract to the large bowl with the flax egg. Beat to combine.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Mix together and carefully transfer the dry ingredients to a sifter. Sift over wet ingredients and stir until all dry ingredients are combined.
  6. Gently fold in apples and oats and stir until just combined. Spoon mixture into muffin tin. Fill each cup to the top. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and extra oats.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until tops are golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes before serving

Notes

To make cinnamon sugar, mix 1/4 tsp. cinnamon with 1/4 tsp. brown sugar. Your flax egg should sit for 5 minutes before adding other ingredients. It will thicken to the same consistency as a regular egg.

http://bohorustic.com/cinnamon-apple-pumpkin-muffin/